Reviewed by Brendan O'Regan
The Cambridge Backs Singers, brought together by Carla Gray, here perform 13 original Christmas songs - not a seasonal standard in earshot. All songs are written by Steven Brecken with music by various collaborators and it's a mixture of cheerful 'secular' songs like "Jingle And A Jangle" and serious songs that remind us of whose birthday it is - eg, "Remember Jesus". The heartfelt "Christmas, The Giving Time" is particularly apt in the lyrics department as we are urged to be generous ("Remember those in need this Christmas time"). In fact the gift-giving motif is prominent throughout, often linked to the story of the Three Wise Men. The chirpy songs are of the happy clappy variety and seem somewhat child-orientated, "Decs On The Christmas Tree" being a case in point - never heard that abbreviation before and I'm not a fan. But there are weightier songs, some quite literate, including the hospitality themed "A Place To Stay" which links elements of the biblical Christmas story, especially the Magi, to seasonal fare like the gifts under the Christmas trees. On the musical front I was somewhat underwhelmed. The voices seem classically trained and do really well when singing acapella, in harmony or with simple arrangements, but somehow seem out of place when there's a more modern and stronger musical backing. Though I found it hard to hear some of the words at times, the production by Piers Mortimer is generally good. All in all then, it's an album you're unlikely to hear much of outside of Cambridge.
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